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DOT Balancing Bridge Safety with Construction Costs

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JOHNSTON COUNTY — Afatal car wreckat a Johnston County bridge Monday raises safety concerns about bridges in North Carolina. The crash happened just three weeks after another deadly tragedy on the same bridge.

Crews have made some temporary repairs to the White Oak Creek Bridge, which dates back nearly a half century, but it is hard to say when any long-term solutions will take place.

The problem theDepartment of Transportationhas is figuring out which projects have priority.

On Labor Day, a car landed in the White Oak Creek; one passenger died. Three weeks earlier there was another fatal wreck here.

The state has moved up the replacement of some dangerous bridges, including the Turkey Creek Bridge in Nash County, where three high school students died three years ago.

The same goes for the bridge in Johnston County where three kids drowned after the car they rode in plunged into the creek.

The funds to do this are limited and the White Oak Creek Bridge does not make the cut.

"We have to prioritize the ones that are replaced, do the worst ones first as far as condition, and this one does not meet the criteria," says DOT engineer John Emerson.

The state may entertain extending guard rails off the bridge.

"We have bridges like this all over the state and again we have to prioritize them in order to use our funds efficiently, to place guard rails where it is needed. And we'll be taking a look at this bridge for sure," says Emerson.

The Secretary of Transportation has asked the DOT to tap into some of its special funds to make this bridge safer. The DOT has a discretionary fund and a spot safety fund for unforeseen emergencies.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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